Schools get help in using Web 2.0 tools

Web 2.0 tools also can enhance schoolwide communication and decision making.
Web 2.0 tools also can enhance schoolwide communication and decision making.

Web 2.0 tools hold great promise for education, but they also pose a number of challenges for educators. To help teachers and administrators navigate these challenges, while also becoming “disruptive leaders” in their schools, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has released two new whitepapers as part of its recent focus on Web 2.0 and education.

One report, titled “Social Networking: Personalized Content, Conversations & Communities,” is the latest publication in CoSN’s EdTechNext series on emerging technologies for education. The other, “How 2 B a Disruptive Technology Leader,” recaps CoSN’s Leadership Forum on this topic at the 2009 National Educational Computing Conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Both reports are available only to CoSN members.

During CoSN’s Leadership Forum, Bailey Mitchell, chief technology and information officer for Georgia’s Forsyth County Schools, said being a disruptive leader means creating problems that need solutions–not just solving problems that already exist.

“Why would a leader create problems?” asked Mitchell. “Intentional problems can be the catalyst for change. Problems can evoke the necessary motivation to make a quantum leap in innovation. The goal of meetings like this is to break apart the common responses to Web 2.0 tools and interrupt the normal course of action.”

Such an interruption can help unleash the power of Web 2.0 tools to enhance instruction, forum participants said. For instance, Web 2.0 tools can help keep kids engaged in school; extend the learning day beyond school; meet the needs of different kinds of learners; prepare students to be thoughtful, ethical, and informed participants online; and connect students with their peers in other locations, thereby increasing their global awareness.

Web 2.0 tools also can enhance schoolwide communication and decision making, said Gordon Dahlby, director of curriculum and technology for the West Des Moines Community School District in Iowa.

One-way communication, in which eMail blasts, newsletters, web posts, or meeting minutes are used to spread the word, “is so last century,” Dahlby said. Instead, he recommended using Web 2.0 tools to facilitate problem solving and increase collaboration and transparency. “The committee,” according to Dahlby, “is dead.” Why choose a group of people to meet and make decisions, he explained, when you can post the question online and let people respond using Web 2.0 tools?

To help educators better understand the different tools available, the EdTechNext report breaks down the different types of Web 2.0 tools into more specific categories, such as:

– Tools dedicated to social networking, which are explicitly designed to “enable people to put their identity forward, express themselves, and connect with others,” and include networks like Ning, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

– Social bookmarking, research, and collaborative tools, which “combine research and community, transforming traditionally solitary activities into opportunities for social engagement, learning, and productivity,” and include sites like Delicious and Diigo–popular social bookmarking sites that allow people to share comments, notes, links, and highlighted or annotated web content.

Meris Stansbury

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